Black Moth Super Rainbow
Better than: watching Usher sing over watered-down techno on Saturday Night Live.
In a rare live appearance at the Echoplex on Saturday, enigmatic psych-pop band Black Moth Super Rainbow exceeded their fans' expectations with a mind-expanding performance. It was a transformative experience for the sold-out crowd who had come to see a band highly praised in corners of the Internet, yet mostly unknown to the general public.
Over the past ten years, the mysterious collective, led by visionary producer Tobacco, has built a following through intense live performances and colorful, genre-defying albums. They've also skirted major labels and essentially shunned mainstream success, intentionally and unintentionally.
As a testament to the power of the Internet, the stand-by line was surprisingly long, as college-age kids stood patiently on the street in a haze of cigarette smoke and hot dog fumes hoping to get inside. I could only wish that I knew about Black Moth Super Rainbow as an 18-year-old. It's that special time in a young person's life when the proposition of taking psychedelics in public still seems like a sound idea. And psychedelics seemed to be the drug of choice last night, as a handful of concert-goers donned colorful facepaint, costumes and pupils the size of Jupiter.
With openers Pictorials and Lumerians both receiving sizable applause, the show featured one of the most pleasant and engaged crowds I've ever endured. Typically when the opening bands are good, it bodes well for the rest of the night, especially in L.A., where it takes a gunshot to get someone to look up from their iPhone.
Pictorials opened the show with a nice set of indie-pop jams, drawing influence from bands like Interpol, while combining post-punk elements with more modern dance-oriented numbers. They were extremely tight, well-rehearsed and clearly passionate, but also very pasty and somewhat dull.
The next band, Lumerians, were tight and well-rehearsed, but their unique style of semi-instrumental psych rock was genuinely more appealing. The San Francisco-based band released their first album in 2008 and has since drawn acclaim for the transportive qualities of their psych-inspired sound. Onstage, they are like a bizarre cross-breed between Queens of the Stone Age and Gang Gang Dance, slogging through heavy metal-inspired riffs on traditional four-minute songs and pounding out entrancing tribal rhythms for seven to eight minutes on others. It's one thing to briefly hear a band with a unique and enticing sound on the Internet, but when it's shoved in your face at a concert with such professionalism, it's hard to forget.
The droning space rock sounds of Lumerians set the stage nicely for Black Moth Super Rainbow, who arrived promptly at 11 and quickly delved in to their set without any dramatic introduction. Over the course of an hour, Tobacco belted out syrupy vocoder lullabies as the other four members looked on. Situated behind an open suitcase draped with a T-shirt reading "Rad Cult," Tobacco managed to project a palpable level of emotion through his vocals, intensifying the atmosphere even further with a variety of effects and echoes. Songs like "Melt Me" and "Sun Lips" expanded far beyond their recorded versions in a live setting, as the guitar players and drummer provided a solid, organic groundwork for melodies to blossom.
The highlight of Black Moth's set came during the encore, as the crowd lost their collective shit for "Forever Heavy," the last song of the night. The down-tempo synth melody lulled the crowd into a narcotic state of jubilance, if that makes any sense.
There are plenty of bands that could stand to learn from Black Moth Super Rainbow when it comes to performing. A dedicated fan shelling out $20 for a concert ticket always wants something more than what they hear on the album. Through adding new effects and replacing synthetic samples with actual musicians, it's something Black Moth Super Rainbow pulled off. Visually and musically, their performance lulls you in to an alternate universe where walls breathe, colors talk and lo-fi psychedelic pop is the favored genre of the masses.
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Personal Bias: I tend to enjoy the youthful enthusiasm of an 18 and over crowd in Echo Park, where it's possible to be cited for not being jaded.
The Crowd: Facepaint, tie dye, dilated pupils and more facepaint.
Random Notebook Dump: If Prince ever ran across BMSR on the radio, he'd likely nod his head and tip whatever weird feathered hat he happened to be wearing at the moment.